April 22, 2021

Thou Shalt Not Talk About Your Successor

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One of the unwritten rules of being President of the United States is that you generally refrain from commenting about the actions of your successor.  That’s not true in reverse, as you can see that many new Presidents comment about what a mess their predecessor left and all the things that they are going to change, but I’m not sure whether the origin of this tradition is because the predecessor actually knows what goes into making law or whether it’s just trying to preserve a person’s legacy as a gentleman and a statesman.

The other thing that seems to be an unwritten rule is that the following rule is stated, but seldom kept.

So, it was no surprise when, a month or so back, former Vice President Cheney came forward to defend the record of his boss—President George W. Bush—and his administration.  And he did a lot to change the opinion of the American people on the Guantanamo Bay prison and the like.

The interesting thing was that President Bush decided to start talking policy—both what he did and what he believes—at a recent rally.

Now, you know the media—they’re itching for a fight between former President Bush and President Obama.  It would make good news.

However, I don’t believe it’s wrong, or out of place, for any citizen to comment in a public forum what they think.  I didn’t think it was wrong when then former Vice President Gore and former President Clinton spoke that way when President Bush changed things, and I don’t think it’s wrong now.

I think that there has to be some decorum, and that the position a person once held should lead a person to be more circumspect—I’d definitely make sure to offer my advice in private to my successor first—but I don’t think it’s wrong to state my core principles, especially if I believe much is at stake.

How about you?  Should President Bush be silent on matters of policy—is that something you give up, the ability to comment, when you become President?

I mean, it’s not like he got a gig on Fox News and spends every night deriding the new Administration!

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